U.S. tightens up travel rules to Cuba, blacklists many organisations

Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017|11:01 a.m.

WASHINGTON– Americans seeking to check out Cuba must navigate a complicated maze of travel, commerce and financial restrictions unveiled Wednesday by the Trump administration, part of a brand-new policy to further isolate the island’s communist federal government.

Now off-limits to U.S. people are dozens of Cuban hotels, stores, tour business and other services included on a lengthy American blacklist of entities that have connect to Cuba’s military, intelligence or security services. And most Americans will as soon as again be needed to travel as part of greatly controlled, organized trip groups run by U.S. companies, rather than voyaging to Cuba by themselves.

The stricter guidelines mark a go back to the tougher U.S. stance toward Cuba that existed prior to previous President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro restored diplomatic relations in 2015. They come as President Donald Trump aims to reveal he’s taking action to prevent U.S. dollars from helping prop up the Cuban government.

Still, the policy is only a partial rollback of Obama’s modifications. Cruise ship gos to and direct industrial flights in between the countries will still be allowed. Embassies in Washington and Havana remain open.

The rules are developed to steer U.S. economic activity far from Cuba’s military, intelligence and security services, which control much of the economy through state-controlled corporations. The objective is to encourage financial support for Cuba’s growing private sector, stated senior Trump administration officials, who briefed reporters on a conference call on condition they not be priced quote by name.

To that end, the Treasury Department said it is broadening and streamlining a license that allows some U.S. exports to Cuba regardless of the embargo. They consist of tools and equipment to construct or renovate independently owned buildings.

“We have actually strengthened our Cuba policies to channel financial activity away from the Cuban military and to motivate the federal government to move toward greater political and financial freedom for the Cuban individuals,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin stated.

Trump revealed his brand-new policy in June during a speech in Miami’s Little Havana area, the cradle of Cuban-American resistance to Castro’s federal government. The administration took a number of months to complete the information of the new rules, which will take effect Thursday.

The new policy keeps a number of classifications of travel to Cuba that are permitted despite the embargo, which carries on years after the Cold War’s end. Americans can still travel on educational and “individuals to individuals” journeys in addition to visits designed to support the Cuban people by patronizing independently owned small companies that have actually appeared across the island in the last few years.

But those taking a trip to support Cuba’s people must have a daylong schedule of activities created to expose them to Cubans and steer dollars toward people, such as renting rooms in personal homes. Those on organized, “individuals to people” or instructional sees need to be accompanied by a representative of the U.S.-based group arranging the trip.

There was no instant response from Cuba’s government. However the guidelines were quickly denounced by travel groups and proponents of closer U.S. ties to the island.

“Cuba is still open for company,” said Charel van Dam of the Cuba Travel Network. “It is still possible for people to travel, but I believe these statements will serve primarily as something to scare off individuals who wish to visit.”

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., a vocal advocate of enhanced U.S.-Cuban relations, noted the announcement came as Trump was in China pushing more U.S. business engagement with another communist-run nation. “The hypocrisy of the White Home ideologues is glaring,” Leahy said.

The rules come amidst deep pressures in the U.S.-Cuba relationship stemming from undetectable, inexplicable attacks that have actually harmed more than two lots U.S. government personnel in Havana given that 2016. The attacks led the Trump administration to buy most of its diplomats to leave Cuba in September and issue a sweeping travel warning prompting Americans to stay away.

Officials insisted that the new, harder guidelines had no connection to the attacks. The U.S. first grumbled to Cuba’s government about the attacks in February, four months before Trump revealed his more comprehensive policy intents.

Some exceptions will accommodate Americans who currently prepare to check out Cuba. Those who reserved “individuals to individuals” journeys before Trump’s June announcement will be exempt, together with Americans who arranged education trips prior to the rules start on Thursday. Service deals currently reached with entities on the prohibited list will be allowed to continue.

It’s uncertain how strongly the United States will police the brand-new guidelines. Officials stated they would utilize details gotten from several U.S. firms to capture lawbreakers, who could be subject to charges and criminal prosecution.

The blacklist bars service with the large military-run corporations that dominate the Cuban economy. These consist of GAESA and CIMEX, holding business that control most retail business on the island; Gaviota, the biggest tourist business; and Habaguanex, which runs Old Havana.

It likewise targets a brand-new cargo port and special trade zone outside the city of Mariel that has been the focus of Cuba’s efforts to draw foreign investment in production and distribution.

Blacklisted hotels include the Manzana Kempinski, which opened with excellent fanfare this year as Cuba’s first to fulfill the worldwide five-star standard.

The overall effect on American service with Cuba will likely be restricted. Trade is sporadic. Numerous American travelers already stay at hotels not on the no-go list, and the company that imports most American food to Cuba is similarly untouched.

Bringing home limited quantities of rum and Cuban stogies is still enabled, authorities said.

Associated Press author Michael Weissenstein in Havana added to this report.

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